William Turnbull a former RAF pilot who became one of the top British artists has died age 90. Turnbull was in the process of a reevaluation of his body of work. A major retrospective is due in March at Chatsworth House. The exhibition is curated by Yorkshire Sculpture Park. His work is also prominently displayed at Tate Britain, and the National Galleries of Scotland. Tate director Nicholas Serota said: “William Turnbull was an exceptional artist, unusually gifted both as a painter and a sculptor.
Born in Dundee in 1922, he began his career as an illustrator for D.C. Thomson, before joining the Royal Air Force in 1941, serving as a pilot in the Second World War. After the war, he studied painting and sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art, before moving to Paris in 1948 where he had close contact with a circle of artists that included Fernand Léger, Alberto Giacometti and Constantin Brancusi.
Turnbull also taught at the Central School of Arts and Crafts during the 50s and 70s influencing a young generation of artists. Over the last 60 years, he has exhibited extensively. Among his one-man exhibitions are the ICA, London (1957), Hayward Gallery, London (1968), a retrospective at Tate Gallery, London (1973), Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco (1988-9), Serpentine Gallery, London (1995-6), Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield (2005). Group shows include Symbol and Imagination 1951-1980, a survey of British sculpture at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1982, andGeometry of Fear: British Sculpture of the 1950s, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art 2011.In 2007 his final exhibition was a retrospective of his paintings and sculptures at London’s Waddington Galleries. He was closely associated with the Scottish sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi. His work was exhibited last autumn in the Frieze Sculpture Park, where it was received positively by the public.